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A little planning can go a long way

 Posted: 2:00 AM May 20, 2013

I'm a lazy vacationer. I've always been a bit lazy about vacations. I don't make a lot of plans; I don't research what to do or where to stay. I just pack a couple trashy magazines, a paperback book, and hope for the best. It usually works out.

Since becoming a parent, I haven't really made any big changes to the way I vacation. I figure we'll just do whatever makes my son, Silas, happy and then just keep doing it. Hopefully amid these 8-year-old activities, I can get a chance to catch up on reading celebrity gossip and figuring out what style dress I should wear if I were ever invited to the Grammys.

Recently, Silas and I went to the coast with a group of friends. We went to the same place and in the same group of cabins Silas and I usually stay in. When Silas and I go, we watch a couple movies, play in the sand with whatever sand toys other people have left behind, and generally just hang out. This particular trip, however, went a little differently.

Apparently, Silas and I were traveling with people who like to "do" things. Before we even left, the others in the group were planning the meals. When Silas and I are together and he asks what's for dinner, I simply state, "food," and then focus on trying to find some. When on vacation, we tend to subsist on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, energy bars and juice. Not true with this vacation, where not only were the meals planned, but the side dishes as well.

The morning our vacation started we all went out to breakfast, at an hour of the morning that I usually reserve for lurching around my house searching for coffee and a frozen waffle. After breakfast, we continued on to a store in a small town on the way to the coast which, it seemed, specialized in selling large amounts of sausage and salami. It may have sold other products as well, but I learned that I am incapable of facing such large amounts of meat products before 11 a.m.

It turns out that there are benefits to vacationing with planners and doers that extend beyond eating a real breakfast and meat shopping.

First, neither Silas nor I ate a single PB&J sandwich for the entire weekend. Instead, we ate amazing things such as vegetables, chicken and an actual dessert.

Second, we didn't just do the usual things that Silas enjoys while playing at the Oregon Coast. Our group brought along actual sand toys and we built sand castles. The sand toys also enabled Silas to have access to a bucket which he quickly used to collect all the broken pieces of crab shell that he could find. My car probably will smell like a cross between a dead crab and a seagull for the rest of the summer as a result of that bucket.

But the biggest thing that our group of friends contributed to the trip was the idea of going to the aquarium in Crescent City. Silas and I had never been, mostly because he always seemed pretty content with dragging around a big piece of kelp along the sand, so I never ventured much beyond that.

It turns out that Silas loved the aquarium. He got to pet real live sharks (I thought they felt surprisingly slimy), watch performing seals and sea lions, and pose for pictures on surfboards and beside mechanical pirates.

Watching Silas have such a good time reminded me that sometimes a little planning, and taking the initiative to actually do something can make a vacation special.

I may not have finished the book I brought along, but I got to watch Silas really enjoy himself.

Zoe Abel is trying to teach herself to quit being such a lazy vacationer. You can contact her at

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